Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sara's Library: Anna Dressed in Blood

First of all, apologies for the lack of updates.  While I had started this post almost two weeks ago, I found myself suddenly very busy with real life.  Between staffing a local convention and a couple of job interviews, I just haven't had time to work on the blog.  I'm hoping to catch up over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Tor Teen 2011
YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults 2012

There have been few books I can recall where my initial reaction to the premise and my final reaction are so completely disparate.  Going in, all I really knew about the plot was that the protagonist, Cas Lowood, went around the country (and Canada, apparently, given the novel's Ontario setting) slaying ghosts with his father's magic dagger (an athame).  It sounded like a lame attempt at writing a prose version of Bleach.  I have never been more wrong about a book.

Shortly after traveling to Thunder Bay, Ontario, in order to rid the town of the infamous Anna Dressed in Blood, events spiral out of Cas's control.  Not only does a prank played upon him by the school football team result in the death of one of the jocks at the hands of Anna, but Cas, so accustomed to the nomadic lifestyle that is part of his job, begins to develop attachments.  He befriends a psychic witch-boy and the most popular girl in school, both of whom insist upon tagging along during his midnight slayings, and eventually learns that he cannot complete his task without the aid of others.  Yet, more interestingly, he develops a strong bond with the ghost herself, Anna, whom he learns is a tragic, fragile creature trapped inside her place of death.

While Ms. Blake's work never shies away from the violence and gore that denote the work as horror, it is her juxtaposition of horror with sarcastic, referential humor that sets this work apart from others in the genre. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will definitely see shades of the Scooby Gang here, which is all for the better.  Without the humor, this tale would likely have proven too grim for the average reader.

The characters, especially Cas and Anna, are well-thought out and complex for the book's relatively short length, and the brisk pacing ensures that readers never tire of the dark events that could easily have become mired in a lengthier work.  A new sequel, Girl of Nightmare, continues the story, which ends somewhat abruptly, and promises to give fans another thrill ride, if the reviews I've read are any indication.

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